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Friday, September 11, 2015
COUNTERVIEW - OROP BUNGLED PROMISE AND WARPED GOODWILL : BY LT GEN PRAKASH KATOCH VETERAN (WITH SOME COMMENTS)
The current lopsided OROP announcement has
resulted in the BJP losing goodwill amongst military veterans.
Speaking at Faridabad on September 6, Prime
Minister Narendra Modi announced that those taking voluntary retirement also
will be eligible to OROP. One wonders if he realized that after 15-months of
inter-ministerial deliberations, insertion of the VRS clause was anything but
bureaucratic mischief. Especially, since VRS does not exist in the military.
Had VRS existed, perhaps half the military would have gone for it considering
the political and bureaucratic apathy that the military has been subjected to over
past several decades by all governments. Just the number of personnel from
Special Forces who took pre-mature retirement in the last 10-15 years because
of such apathy would shock the public. That the number would have been much
more but for the cap on how many can leave is a separate issue.
While announcing OROP, the Defence
Minister, reading from a prepared script though flanked by the Service Chiefs,
apparently had little idea about the implications of announcing that personnel
taking voluntary retirement would not be eligible to OROP – indeed a sad state
of affairs. His body language anyway indicated he had been stumped by the
In military, pre-mature retirement can be
sought without completing minimum pensionable service or after completing
minimum pensionable service. Personnel in the latter category draw pensions and
should be entitled to OROP. By just mentioning “early retirement” those drawing
pension were being denied OROP, which was not justifiable. Though Prime
Minister Modi has clarified OROP will be applicable to all those drawing
pension, it is yet to be seen what will be mentioned in the government’s
implementation letter, especially since this would likely be issued ‘after’ the
Obviously, the bureaucratic advice that the
Prime Minister and Defence Minister receive is wrought with anti-military
machinations, otherwise such a clause—VRS in OROP—could not have been inserted
in the first place. The Modi government became the laughing stock of the world
due to the brutal police action on legally and peacefully protesting veterans
at Jantar Mantar on August 14 – an action ill advised. The folly was compounded
when no apology was rendered by any political authority. Sending a scapegoat
police officer to apologize was a laughable action. There came not a word of
remorse from the President (Supreme Commander of Armed Forces) during his
Independence Day Eve address to the nation, neither by the PM and the RM on
their Independence Day addresses, or not even a tweet from the Prime
Minister known for his humility.
Was it bureaucratic advice to keep the
military under the thumb ‘any which way’? With Indo-Japanese relations on a
high, the least our hierarchy can learn from the Japanese is humility. The fact
remains that the blot of unprecedented police action against the veterans will
stick with this government for a very long time.
But getting back to OROP, the veterans have
simply been demanding OROP as defined by the 2011 Koshyari Parliamentary
Committee and the grant of OROP w.e.f 01 Apr 2014, as committed by the UPA
government in Parliament on 17 Feb 2014 and by the present NDA government.
The Defence Minister in his press briefing
announced: cost of OROP would be Rs. 8,000-10,000 crore, increasing
in future (recently MoD and Defence Accounts had stated cost of OROP as Rs
8,293 crores); benefit will be w.e.f 1st July 2014; arrears will be paid in
four half-yearly installments, single installment for widows; 2013 will be
taken as base year; pension will be re-fixed for all retiring in same rank with
the same length of service as average of minimum and maximum pension in 2013,
those drawing pensions above the average will be protected; personnel who
voluntarily retire will not get OROP; pension would be re-fixed every 5-years;
a one-man judicial committee to examine interests of retirees of different
periods and different ranks and inter-service issues to submit report in six
months; and that the PM’s commitment to OROP is fulfilled and MoD will soon
issue implementation orders.
All those trumpeting that the promise
stands fulfilled have obviously not read the Koshyari Committee Report. For had
they read it, they would have realized what the military had prior to the 3rd
Central Pay Commission (CPC) in 1973. The Committee’s recommendation to restore
the pre-1973 status was accepted by both UPA and NDA governments.
The pre-1973 status meant that: OROP was
applied to military with annual equalization of all military pensions which was
not connected to any pay commission, and; in addition, benefits given to other
government servants as part of pay commissions were also applied to the
military. The 3rd CPC arbitrarily stopped OROP and annual equalization of
pensions for the military, reduced military pensions from 70% of pay to 30%, enhanced
pensions of other government employees and continued with annual equalization
of 100% pension for organizations like the Railways (whose manpower strength is
as large as the Indian Army), bureaucracy, judiciary, parliamentarians and
civilian defence employees. Isn’t it shocking that 45% of defence pensions
outlay is being consumed by 22% of civilian employees of MoD sitting in cushy
offices. Can Finance Minister Arun Jaitley justify such protracted injustice to
the military veterans?
The 5-year equalization of pay defeats the
very definition of OROP as every 5-year window would find earlier retirees
getting lesser pension from their junior counterparts retiring later. The Modi
government had promised to implement the Koshyari Report which included automatic
actualization of military pensions. This promise stands broken with the clause
of revising pensions every 5-years. The public is being misled by the Finance
Ministry saying that “huge sum” will be required to equalize military pensions
annually, ‘without’ naming what that sum is. The fact is that annual
equalization for four years adds to only about Rs 165.86 crores taking the
present OROP cost of Rs 8,293 crores, latter worked out by MoD and Defence
There hardly is a problem of money: MoD
surrendered Rs 6000 crores on 31st March as also Rs 1000 crores earmarked
for the National War Memorial; between 2007-2013, bad debts of government banks
amounting to Rs five lakh crore were written off and the RBI revealed that 95%
of these were large loans to “big companies”, and; similar bad debts of sick
PSUs including Air India were written off, some even inflated for
understandable reasons. The latter two apparently are standard procedure by all
governments to create slush funds that strictly is black money. Isn’t this
deliberate “bureaucratic apathy” which the Koshyari Committee wanted
stamped-out, and the government promised to do so as well?
Grant of benefits from 1st July 2014
instead of 1st April 2014 demanded by the veterans (commencement of FY 2014-15)
is again a typical case of bureaucratic obduracy. Appointment of the One-Member
Judicial Committee with a mandate to submit a report in six months appears an
effort to take the veterans up the gum tree and dissipate their protests at
Jantar Mantar. Why have these issues not been examined by the MoD, DESW,
Finance Ministry over past several months? Is the intention to brief him what
his recommendations should be? Why does this Committee not consist of a panel
(as recommended by veterans) and why it should not have veteran representation
unless this is deliberate like lack of service representation in the MoD and
The Defence Minister says government
respects armed forces and looks after their welfare but how is it that the 7th
CPC has no representation from the military despite such demands from past
several years? How is it that IAS, IPS and the Central Services also have
Assured Career Progression (ACP) but the military is denied this? The Koshyari
Committee described in detail why Armed Forces cannot be equated with any other
government service. The government accepted it but permitted underhand
bureaucratic machinations. Till recently a DIG was between a Lt Col and a Col.
Now a Col has been equated with Non-Functional Selection Grade (NFSG). The rank
of a DIG is now officially equal to a Brigadier. Both are now on a Grade Pay of
Rs 8900, because of the machinations of the Governmentt and the Central
Services to run down the Military.
The bottom-line is that the promise of OROP
which needed explicit measures to restore the pre-1973 status of military
pensions has been thoroughly bungled by the bureaucracy and ostensibly by
forces that want to discredit Prime Minister Modi, finances not being a problem
as explained above. 5-year equalization of military pensions can no way be
termed OROP as persons retiring in the 5-year window will start getting lesser
pension than their juniors retiring later. By saying that the next revision
will be after five years (in 2019) the bureaucracy has delivered a double blow
to the military veterans, which is not being realized. With the 7th CPC
delivering its recommendations before 2019, the obvious implications are that
benefits given to other government employees as recommended by the 7th CPC will
not be passed on to military veterans. It is reiterated that the pre-1973 OROP
status included annual equalization of all military pensions (not connected to
any pay commission) and benefits given to other government servants as part of
pay commissions also applied to the military pensions.
It goes without saying that with the
current lopsided OROP announcement, the BJP has lost plenty goodwill of
military veterans. A half promise kept is no promise. It would be in fitness of
things to agree to annual equalization of pensions as promised and appoint a
military member in the 7th CPC to ensure the military veterans not lose out, in
line with the pre-1973 status. It would also be in the fitness of things for a
political figure to meet and address the veterans at Jantar Mantar and express
remorse for the police action on August 14. Much that it may perhaps hurt the
false ego of the said politician, all these actions will win back veteran
What the government also needs to
acknowledge is that over and above the issue of OROP is the crying need to
reorganize the higher defence structures including the MoD without which the
defence of India will remain in dire straits. The MoD needs to be replaced with
a Department of Defence (DoD) headed by the Defence Minister and manned by
military professionals. If Prime Minister Narendra Modi could replace the
Planning Commission with the Niti Ayog there is no reason he cannot do so for
defence – no matter how much the resistance. The entire serving and military
veteran community will vote for him if their respect and dues are restored.
Brijesh : The writer does not either contradict the narrative being suggested by the govt and those who believe it or suggest a way ahead for the future. Before I venture to suggest that, let me place on record that what the Govt has managed to do with its actions over the past 30 days is something that even its worst enemies could have ever hoped for. It has shot itself in the foot and has done incalculable harm to the civil military relationship which may take generations to repair. Now to the future. The blueprint is easily available if the Govt just looks at the reports already in its position-some of which I have had the occasion to peruse and the practice in other countries faced with difficult border situations, say Germany and France. I suggest a combination of the following:-
1. Laterally transfer bulk of future retirees, as appropriate ages, to police forces to reduce the pension burden and to reduce the age of the Army.
2. Start a National Service Programme in which all aspirants of college education have to serve a period ,I would suggest one year, in social service such as service in hospitals, rural areas and the armed forces on the payment of a stipend. By doing this, the nation gets manpower for services that are suffering and the armed forces get the manpower at the junior level. Apart from all the other advantages, there will also be an adviantage in that the existing colonial mind set in the armed forces will get diluted over a period of time. It will work to modernize the thinking of the armed forces like nothing else would.
3. Consider taking away a large number of activities presently done by the uniformed men to trade and industry to reduce manpower in uniform. another advantage will be that the industry will get exposed to higher standards of servicing of equipment.
4. Consider immediate integration of the armed forces in the Ministry of Defence, as happens in all modern bureaucracies and getting military involved in strategic decision making. The present practice of having an IFS officer in MoD and one army officer in MEA is an eyewash.
I am sure that the above can and should be improved and additional measures could be thought of and implemented. But the crying need is to earn the confidence of the armed forces, make them realize that they are a part of the national strategic decision making to ensure that the country gets the band for each buck it spends.
Veekay 008 - Brijesh U r trying to change the focus, which this govt will never be able to do. Gen Katoch has commented on the OROP and related subjects. He has merit in what he has written here. He is more than 100% right in his assessment. This govt has to wake-up now before it is too late. They or any other govt can not be allowed to play with fire and try to defame out brave soldiers.
Bry Sahu - VRS inclusion in OROP draft indicates how ignorant areministers about military? But the problem is the real govt (babus, who areignorant about matters military as well as spiteful towards military?) This isdangerous situation for national security. Since there is so much communication gap between the PMO and the service chiefs, babus being the bridge. Babus will filter the information reaching the PM as per their understanding (perception or interests whatever you call it?). Past PM and the current PM consider service chiefs as something untouchable - Manmohan Singh reportedly never met service chiefs despite repeated requests and current PM's record may be same. Why? If he can meet secretaries on daily basis, why not service chiefs, who have a rank higher than secretaries? Is the matters military or national security that unimportant? Here is the suggested solution:
RE-ORGANIZATION OF MILITARY/CIVILIAN COMMAND STRUCTURE -
There should be only 5 commands (NOT as Army, Navy or Air force but all three combined) - Northern Command, Western Command, Eastern Command, Central Command and Maritime Command (including Strategic Command). Eastern Command will include areas right up to South East Asia. Western Command will include areas up to Russia. Maritime Command will include areas up to West Asia including Arabian Sea, India Ocean, right up to Australia. Northern Command’s area will be limited but Kashmir itself is very important and areas in Tibet and Mongolia can be included. Central Command will contain all strike formations of Army/AF. All 5 commands should be commanded by a 4 star general from army, air force or navy, who will report to Joint Chiefs of Staff (4 star general but a higher appointment) in PMO deputed by another 4 star general.
Both Joint Chiefs of Staff and his deputy will report to the defense minister but their offices will be in PMO. Prime Minister will be connected to all 4 star commanders in field by a hotline. There should be a situation room in PMO where regular meeting of top brass of security apparatus can take place.
Current service chiefs of army, air force and navy will remain in service headquarters to maintain and inter command transfers of the forces, however the military commanders in field will exercise the command and control over the forces under their command. Instead of one defense secretary, there will be secretaries each for army, air force and navy to exercise civilian control on specified areas.
The above model will ensure complete civilian control over military, yet the highest level defense decision maker (PM) in touch with matters military and national defense (You know current DM’s frank admission about matters military). Imagine our PM calling the field military commander directly on hotline, eliminating all red tape. There will be no more inter service acrimony and all forces will jointly responsible for national security! If you ask for the opinion of service HQrs, that may be biased.
Bry Sahu - OROP Draft - FLY in TEA - Who prepared the draft? PM obviously approved it for a stamp but somebody else approved it before it was put up to PM? Who was this somebody? Now it is almost clear that DM had no clue about VRS? The Trimurty (service chiefs) also had no idea how VRS made it to the draft OROP announcement (don't expect them to do anything about it even if they knew about it. Those are the ornaments of govt - nothing more) forward the idea about VRS inclusion but they are not yet so powerful that they themselves can exclude 46% veteran population from the OROP? Then who were (or who was?) these forces who put FLY in the TEA before it was offered to veterans? This tea cup with fly came from PMO to DM for announcement and he probably didn't know that fly was there in the tea cup? Even if he knew about it, how could he remove the fly from cup because it came from PMO. So ultimately PM himself removed the FLY from the cup of TEA next day. But did he really remove the FLY? Now DM says that when detailed orders are issued about OROP, everybody will come to know the status of this FLY in the cup of TEA? But the bigger question is, even after it is confirmed that the FLY has in fact been removed from cup of TEA, would any veteran take a sip from cup (Gen VK Singh is doubtful?)? How sad state of affairs - TEA offered to veterans but somebody managed to play mischief by putting FLY into the cup? Damage is done. Now for future, here is a suggested solution.
No personal secretary or assistant of PM or a Minister should be from a particular service (IAS?). Personal staff carry lot of influence, and there is always a possibility that they can abuse this influence. Surely we can find more efficient folks from neutral territory (may be on contract) to perform these sensitive jobs. Meanwhile, media so busy with all the halla-gulla, should try and find out WHO approved this FLY in cup of TEA for veterans before the draft was presented to PM ( Prime ministers don't prepare drafts, so please don't suspect PM)? Once it is known who pre-approved the FLY in cup of TEA, those forces (or FORCE) should be shown the door!
Bry Sahu - In this information age, everybody has access to TV news. They already have opinion formed. Rally at JM or no rally, veterans are united, whether veteran leaders are united or not? Wait for rally on 12th - my hunch is it will be a huge success - not for or against Gen Satbir, Balbir or Kadyan - but against VRS and review every 5 years in OROP draft. Govt has been wrongly advised to delay and dilute this measure, the best would have been on May 26th to announce full OROP, overruling Finance Ministry. 15th August announcement would have cut the losses. Bringing this discussion in public and thereby defaming the veterans that they are asking for more is most unfortunate for national security. Veterans never demanded anything. They were simply protesting to undo the Injustice meted out to them by babus in 1973 pay commission, which Modi had promised to address in Rewari. For 26 years they could review veteran pension annually when there were no computers, now babus find annual review administrative nightmare in this computer software age? See what happens in 2019? Unfortunately for a Modi supporter (me included), despite having almost delivered on his promise on OROP, veterans will not vote for Modi in 2019. This is not a desirable thing but then who is to be blamed – Modi should have listened to his conscience rather than listening to Jaitley, who was first to support his candidature for PM.
Rajeev Mehta - I think the writer has made very forceful arguments against the current OROP policy annouced by Modi Govt. !! The BJP Govt has bungled on every election promise related to emotional and sensitive issues. No wonder people are exasperated that the Govt is busy doing just INCREMENTAL CHANGES even after getting brute majority !!
abhijitpal ho ho ho...this general is greedy
Veekay 008 abhijit palStop being a paid fool here and try to defame our brave soldiers. Gen Katoch is not only a senior officer but a decorated soldier too. To call hi and other defence personnel as "greedy" is blasphemy.
abhijit pal veekay08gussa kyu hota hai dear....r u a crAAPtard...he is just like the generals who are sitting on dharba....getting gallantry award does not mean a person is not greedy
abhijit pal veekay08kyu bhai tera kya bigada hai .....your begum got her behind widened in 2002 so why angry on me girl?
veekay08 abhijit palmera koi kya bigad lega? Main to hamesha sacchai ke raastey par chalta hoon. I have no beghum, but yr mey has been after me to make her "behind widend". In fact she has become the savita bhabhi of the locality. Ussko sambhal pahle.
abhijit pal veekay08tu to direct khuljee ke gaand mein rahta hai yaar....born in 2002 came out of wrong end.....real father is a rss patriot braveheart.....unfortunately u inherited moms genes...
Abhiram abhijit palAbhijit you must be one of those paid BJP trolls.And people like you who wouldn't mind selling off even their dear ones for a few bucks is the bane of this country.
abhijit pal Abhiramtu ram aur mein jit.....crAAPtard chor hai kya....u dont even need payment for doing anything as long as u can sit in the warmth of khujlee's folds